Top Australian cyclist dies in accident in Germany

19th July 2005, Comments 0 comments

19 July 2005, SYDNEY/ZEULENRODA, GERMANY - A car in Germany drove into Australia's national women's road cycling team Monday, killing one cyclist and seriously injuring five, racing officials said.

19 July 2005

SYDNEY/ZEULENRODA, GERMANY - A car in Germany drove into Australia's national women's road cycling team Monday, killing one cyclist and seriously injuring five, racing officials said.

The accident occurred one day before the start of the Tour of Thuringen while the Australian team was on a training ride on the route of the opening time trial stage near Zeulenroda, 80 kilometres south of Leipzig.

Their coach was following in the team car and was the first on the scene.

An 18-year-old driver who had just got her licence crossed onto the wrong side of the road and mowed down the cyclists.

"It was a runaway car with an 18-year-old driver," an official of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) said while confirming that Amy Gillett, 29, was killed and five of her teammates seriously injured.

Prime Minister John Howard Tuesday expressed condolences to the family of the leading Australian cyclist and former Olympic rower.

"In every way we will help and if people need financial or other assistance it will be provided," Howard, who is visiting the United States, told Australia's ABC Radio.

The prime minister of the German state of Thuringia, Dieter Althaus, also expressed his condolences to Gillett's relatives and to the manager of her cycling team, Warren McDonalds.

Five other members of the national women's team were seriously injured in the accident and three are in a critical condition after being taken to hospital by helicopter.

Cycling Australia chief executive Graham Fredericks said Alexis Rhodes, 20, and Louise Yaxley, 23, were in a very serious condition. He said the family members of all the cyclists were on their way to Germany.

Fredericks said the AIS women's road cycling programme would be suspended. "It goes without saying that this programme will be wound down for a while now," he said. "Our focus now is on the well-being of those athletes, to monitor them through their recovery process until they are well enough to travel back to Australia."

Tour of Thuringen organizer Christian Bergemann appeared distraught at an evening press conference to announce that the race would be postponed for a day to allow a memorial service to take place on the main square of Zeulenroda.

Adelaide-born Gillett won two gold medals in world junior rowing titles in 1993 and 1994 and was a member of the Australian women's eight which finished fifth in the Atlanta Games.

Her husband, Simon Gillett, is a two-time world champion rower. She was based in Novellara, Italy, for the European road racing summer season.

Gillett switched to cycling in 2000, and was a member of the Australian World Cup cycling teams in 2002 and 2003. She was ranked among the world's top 100 female cyclists and was tipped for a medal at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne next year.

Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates said Gillett was "a unique athlete who represented at the elite level in two sports ... she showed her immense talent making the transition (from rowing) to competitive cycling in such a short time".

DPA

Subject: German news

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